Biodiversity 2010 – Protecting Scotland’s seas


Coral gardens. Colourful and diverse coral garden communities on Anton Dohrn Seamount, west of Scotland. © JNCC

With the International Year of Biodiversity come new measures to protect Scotland’s most important sea life. Many of the marine features for which Scotland’s seas are a stronghold, such as coral gardens (pictured) and deep sea sponge communities (pictured), will now get the protection status they deserve. With a statutory remit to advise on selecting marine protected sites in UK offshore waters the Joint Nature Conservation Committee will be working at the forefront of conservation efforts.


Marine Protected Areas will be chosen using the best available scientific evidence, but selecting areas for conservation has to be balanced against oil and gas operations, offshore windfarms and the fishing industry interests and economy generated from Scotland’s seas. As such, the new network of Marine Protected Areas in Scotland’s seas will be selected to cause the least possible disruption to these important economic activities and the interests of fish farmers, wave power developers and council officials.


Existing measures, such as European Marine Sites designated under the EC Birds and Habitats Directives, already protect features in Scottish seas that are of European importance. Until now however there was no way of conserving those features in Scotland’s seas that are of national importance.


Scotland's seas are a stronghold for deep sea sponge communities. © JNCCAlong with the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, the new Marine (Scotland) Act, which gained Royal Assent in March 2010, enables Scottish Ministers to designate Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for nationally important marine habitats and species, and features of geological and geomorphological interest across Scotland’s seas.


JNCC’s Scottish MPA Project staff, working in partnership with Marine Scotland (Scottish Government) and Scottish Natural Heritage, will advise Scottish Ministers on how they could use these new powers to put Scotland in a better position to contribute to the UK Government’s European and international marine nature conservation commitments.


Within this partnership, JNCC will be responsible for advising on locations for Marine Protected Areas in Scottish offshore waters, whilst Scottish Natural Heritage will be advising on Marine Protected Areas in Scottish inshore waters. The Scottish MPA Project staff are working closely with JNCC’s Marine Conservation Zones and Natura 2000 staff to help deliver the UK’s commitments for an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas.




Megan Linwood

Scottish MPA Project Manager

Tel: +44(0) 1224 654340